Cuba: Latin America's Great Shame

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Whoever has endured the yoke of a long and cruel dictatorship knows that one of the most comforting feelings one may experience under those circumstances is to be able to count on the solidarity of people and institutions from the outside world. That solidarity gives strength to those who struggle from within. And, all too naturally, when those like-minded voices get missing or run low, when the crimes of the dictatorship do no arouse international indignation, when those who lead countries living in democracy turn a blind eye, it is anger which, most understandably, springs from the hearts of dissidents thus abandoned to the mercy of a tyrant.

Anger, therefore, is what the Cuban people must be feeling vis-à-vis the leaders of Latin America. Cubans, indeed, have only received sporadic leftovers of sympathy from their own region, as the bulk of Latin American governments and regional organizations tend to shun - whether by fear or by convenience - any quarrel with the longest tyranny in the history of that continent.

That indifference is all the more repulsive as it comes from a continent with a long experience in struggling against military dictatorships. Its leaders should have been in the forefront of international initiatives aimed at assisting the Cubans in their fight to rid themselves from the claws of Castroism.

Instead, Latin American leaders contemplate detachedly, practically without saying a word of reprobation, how entire generations of Cubans have been deprived from essential human rights such as choosing their own representatives, having a free press and organizing independent trade unions.

Thus, sheltered under the indifference of Latin American leaders, and notwithstanding the hypes of Raul Castro's so-called "readjustments," repression continues unabatedly its course in Cuba, with its unbounded sequel of victims and injustices; with the "Ladies in White" being insulted and harassed every time they take in the streets to manifest their desire to breathe freedom in the country where they were born and live; with detentions and house arrests on the rise; with dissidents being recurrently subjected to infamous beatings.

And yet, to prove to the regime and to the world as a whole that the dissidence will not give in, Cubans have gone all out, if need be up to enduring the supreme sacrifice - as did Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died on a hunger strike in February 2010 without receiving due medical care - rather than continuing living in Castro's gulag.

Today, two years after the demise of Zapata Tamayo, we are witnesses, one more time, of the infamous silence of the leaders of our continent. A silence observed vis-à-vis the death, after a 50-day hunger strike, of the 31-year-old dissident Wilman Villar Mendoza.

It will suffice to surf through Internet to notice the dearth of reactions, among Latin America's governments and institutions, vis-à-vis this new victim of Castroism.

Not a word, for instance, from Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who, in his last official trip to Havana as Brazil's head of state, both refused to receive 50 Cuban dissidents who had requested to meet him and, most outrageously, declined to intercede on behalf of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who, at that time, was still alive.

Not a word, either, from Dilma Roussef, Brazil's current president, who, having been tortured in her youth by the military junta that ran her country in those times, would be expected to condemn the abuses to which Cuban dissidents and protestors are submitted to.

Not a word, finally, from José Insulza, secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) and, as such, the personentrusted to work toward the implementation of the Inter-American Democratic Chart, which provides for the promotion and protection of human rights in our region.

Be that as it may, in spite of this endless saraband of indifference, and hence complicity, there should be no doubt: as proven yesterday in Eastern Europe, and today in North Africa and the Middle East, the day of reckoning will inevitably come before the tribunal of history in Latin America.

And on that fateful day, the names of some heads of state and executive directors of institutions of the region will receive a moral condemnation for having left an entire people to hold out alone, with courage as the sole weapon, against a tyrant who, in the name of a failed ideology, betrayed each and every pledge of democratic conviction he had made before seizing power.

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